Fragmentary Medallion of Emperor in a Chariot
This piece is part of a small gold treasure said to have been found in Latakia, Syria. It includes two other pieces, one more complete mate to this piece, and the other a belt buckle.
There was a fashion in fifth- and sixth-century Rome for bracelets of this kind, comprised of a semicircular band completed by a geometric shape, usually a circle, attached to the band by a clasp on one side and a hinge on the other. The bands were decorated with opus interasile (openwork cuts), enamel, or, as in this case, with repoussé vine scrolls. This damaged circular closure in repoussé, depicts an emperor, facing frontally, celebrating a triumph in a chariot drawn by six horses. In his left hand he holds a globe, representing the cosmos, which is topped by a nike (winged victory). There are two other nikes at either side, leading the horses. At the bottom, there are palm fronds and a measuring basket, both symbols of victory. The imagery, combined with the circular format, makes the clasp into a sort of pseudo-medallion.
The setting of real coins in jewelry was a widespread practice in ancient times. Such pieces advertised the wealth of the wearer and at the same time suggested loyalty to the imperial figures portrayed on the coins.